Urban Libraries Are Stepping Up as Civic Engagement Leaders

June 18th, 2012

Report Highlights Leadership Roles and Successful Programs

A new Urban Libraries Council (ULC) research report calls for a sustained investment in civic engagement to build stronger communities and makes the case for public libraries as ideal civic engagement leaders. The report, Stepping Up to the Civic Engagement Challenge, highlights research that points to the social and economic benefits that come from engaged and empowered citizens and documents the successful community- building efforts already being carried out by libraries across North America.

“Public libraries are trusted, stable, apolitical, safe, and positive,” said Urban Libraries President and CEO Susan Benton. “At a time when trust in government remains low and many citizens feel disconnected from public institutions, libraries offer a bright light for building stronger communities and producing long-term results.”

The report is based on current research, in-depth interviews, and discussions among local government leaders, library directors and trustees, researchers, and civic leaders. It provides a broad perspective on why civic engagement matters, offers strategies for maximizing the potential of libraries to create and sustain an environment that promotes community empowerment, and highlights examples of how engaged libraries are already leading the way. Examples include programs that support and engage new immigrants, educate voters about the importance of municipal elections, initiate and facilitate informed discussions about key community issues, and create connections among diverse segments of the community.

“This report is designed to raise awareness about the benefits of engaging and empowering citizens and to position the library as a reliable and trusted resource to lead, manage, and ensure sustained attention to civic engagement” Benton added.

About the Urban Libraries Council

As a membership organization made up of America’s premier public library systems and the organizations that serve them, the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) has spent more than 40 years enriching urban communities by strengthening their public libraries. While ULC members primarily represent urban and suburban libraries, lessons from their work are widely used by all libraries. ULC serves as a forum for thought leaders sharing best and next practices resulting from targeted research, education, and emerging trends. Its programs are recognized for creating new frameworks that invigorate public libraries and their communities.